The agriculture industry has exponentially grown in recent years and is anticipated to continue to evolve in the coming years – thanks to agricultural and marketing possibilities offered by big data, advanced technologies and the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). It has been estimated through predictive research that world food production will have to increase by 70% by 2050 to feed a projected population of 9.1 billion people. In order to increase production to meet the ever-growing food demand, it is essential for farmers to be more efficient and productive, hence precision agriculture.
Precision agriculture, aka smart farming, paves the way for sustainable agriculture. Sustainability of agricultural production means meeting the demand of people while preserving the environment and increasing prosperity for today and in the future. As the name suggests, smart farming leverages and applies a range of technologies and tools, such as GPS, auto-guidance systems, drones, remote sensors, geographical information system (GIS) and IoT capabilities to better control crop production and improve monitoring capabilities and farm efficiency.
However, building a smart agriculture system may not be as easy as just deploying a couple of sensors in the field. Though there are several benefits linked with precision agriculture, it also presents certain challenges to farmers and agribusiness owners that need to be overcome to ensure greater efficiency and maximum profitability.
Let’s take a look at these challenges in detail.
· CONNECTIVITY AND BANDWIDTH ISSUES
As technology continues to progress and big data and the IoT is becoming an increasingly significant part of the farm operation, having access to a strong and uninterrupted internet connection has become a common challenge, especially in rural locations. Most of the precision agriculture practices require reliable internet connectivity – 4G or higher, to work efficiently and for acquired data to be processed.
A lack of good connectivity or poor network performance and bandwidth speeds will pose a barrier to the adoption of digital technology and decelerate the rise of smart farming and sustainable agriculture. Since many precision agriculture tools like soil sensors, satellite mapping systems and monitoring tools rely on cloud services for data storage, access and transmission, cloud-based computing also needs to be significantly improved in remote areas. Furthermore, farms with tall, dense trees and/or hilly terrains also face problems in receiving GPS signals which makes it even more difficult to implement precision agriculture techniques in such locations.
· MANAGING DATA VOLUMES
While data plays an inevitable role in smart agriculture, data management is an ongoing challenge for many farmers and agribusinesses alike. Even a small farm gathers and stores tons of data to inform related operations and marketing decisions. It is nearly impossible to monitor or analyse those hundreds of thousands of data points on a daily/weekly basis, over the entire growing seasons. The problem grows even bigger in large, multi-crop farmlands that involve multiple growing seasons.
What needs to be done to overcome this challenge is to take a smart approach to data processing and management. This requires farmers to identify which data points they need to track on a regularly basis and which data can be left to be analysed during specific seasons only. The agriculture industry is rapidly adopting big data, but for successful precision agriculture to happen, farmers must understand when and how to use the available information stored in their agriculture databases.
· THE STEEP LEARNING CURVE
Precision farming can be viewed as comprising four stages: data acquisition, interpretation, analysis and control. To successfully deploy and run a smart agriculture system, you need to implement various cutting-edge technologies across these stages to experience perceived benefits. For the average farmer, however, setting up the necessary IoT architecture and field monitoring systems in their fields, can be difficult and demanding. It is important to note that the room for mistake is minimal in smart farming set-up and poor implementation or management – like a wrongly placed sensor or forgetting to switch off the irrigation tank, can take a toll on your farm efficiency and production. To ensure the desired outcomes of increased profitability, reduced environmental risk and better crop production, farmers need to thoroughly acquaint themselves with the concept of precision agriculture, and the tools/devices involved in the system, before they can actually proceed with the deployment and other stages. Lack of knowledge can not only cause difficulty in the implementation of smart farming system, but it is will cost you time and effort.
Why Does Precision Agriculture Matter to Farmers?
With the availability of a wide range of innovative digital technologies and tools in the market, it does not make sense to follow the traditional and obsolete practices that involve personally inspecting huge farms and managing different types of crops and food production. Integrating data, automation and smart methodologies into agriculture helps farmers to take better care of their farms, mitigate risks, reduce costs and increase profitability. Successful adoption and implementation of precision agriculture contributes to healthier environment, increased food availability and keeps food costs reasonable to end consumers.
Summed up below are some opportunities that farmers are presented with in a precision agriculture system:
- Monitor farm/crop health in real-time and identify crop diseases before they cause damage
- Conserve water with accurate insights into soil conditions and weather predictions
- Automate various farm operations like planting, harvesting and spraying to reduce resource consumption and overall costs.
- Evaluate production rates accurately
- Reduce environmental footprint
- Improve livestock monitoring and management
Precision agriculture has proven to provide better production and growth opportunities to farmers over the last few years, yet the adoption rate is relatively slow. One of the reasons preventing farmers from taking up smart farming is lack of knowledge, At KG2, we acquire and store tons of information from successful precision agriculturists, farmers, agricultural marketers and industry specialists, which helps guide our clients’ farm and marketing strategies. From building a digital strategy for maximum farmer engagement to improving your decision-making process with valuable data analytics, we make agriculture seamless and profitable for farmers and businesses alike.